Implementing The Ontario Government's Innovation And Prosperity Plan For The Agri-Food Sector
The Ontario government supports and appreciates the contributions of the province's agri-food sector, which pumps $30 billion into the provincial economy, employs 650,000 people and ships $8.4 billion in exports annually. Key milestones in implementing the government's plan are:
Competitiveness and economic support
- Signed the Agricultural Policy Framework - over the five-year life of the program, Canada and Ontario will have invested more than $1.7 billion in the agri-food sector.
- Involved in 50 investment cases resulting in about $400 million in investment and creating and retaining more than 2,300 jobs so far in 2005-06.
- Established the Ontario Apple Growers marketing board, allowing commercial growers to speak with a single voice, provide for the future through research and education, and increase markets.
- Addressed the immediate financial needs of the agricultural sector by providing up to $188 million in federal and provincial funds to help stabilize the industry and give relief to farmers. This support comes in two forms: $172 million over three years in business risk management programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework and up to $16 million in Ontario funding in interim payments for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) repositioning as part of the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program.
- Delivered much-needed funding to assist the ruminant livestock sector recover from the fallout of the discovery of BSE. The provincial government provided $84 million. When combined with federal funding, about $317 million was delivered to Ontario's ruminant livestock sector.
- Continued support to the Ontario Cattlemen's Association by providing $4 million in further funding to maintain deadstock collection, in addition to $1.3 million the previous year. In addition, $800,000 was provided for three projects to increase slaughter capacity in the province, which was part of $7 million committed for this purpose.
- Provided an additional $79 million to assist grain and oilseed producers.
- Provided $6 million under the Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program to farmers and municipalities for drainage construction, improvement and maintenance.
- Exempted the land transfer tax for farms that change ownership between members of the same family, which will help pass on the farming tradition to future generations and save their hard-earned dollars.
- Exempted farmers from an administrative fee for permits to take water applications.
- Introduced new, more equitable tax assessment criteria for equestrian properties to ensure that farms on which horses are bred, raised, maintained and cared for, are treated consistently with other types of farm activities.
- Simplified the process for farmers to claim their retail sales tax exemption when buying eligible farm-related goods, services and insurance for their businesses. Effective April 1, 2005, farmers could use their general farm organization identification cards to obtain point-of-sale retail sales tax exemptions.
- With agricultural counterparts in the federal and provincial governments, made improvements to the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program to ensure that Ontario's farmers have access to business risk management programs that meet their needs.
- Delivered an active export development program focusing on identifying foreign buyers and linking them with Ontario exporters. Recent accomplishments for Ontario include more than $10 million from one company's bakery products being sold to Wal-Mart U.S.A.; snacks, baked products, frozen entrées and appetizers being sold to a major retailer in both Texas and Mexico; private label energy bars and potato chips being sold in the United Kingdom; gourmet cookies being sold in Manhattan.
- Launched a new Foodland Ontario television advertising campaign encouraging consumers to buy Ontario fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Presented the Foodland Ontario Retailer Awards to 24 food retailers who have shown outstanding commitment and creativity in their marketing of Ontario fruit and vegetable products.
Strong rural communities
- Invested $1 million to complete the Rudy H. Brown Rural Development Centre at Ridgetown College. This funding is in addition to the province's allocation of $2.5 million in 2004. When completed, the centre will include classrooms, a lecture theatre, office and administration space to accommodate Ridgetown College's increasing enrolment while newly created community space will be used to host local events. This funding complements the efforts of the Ridgetown College Agri-Food Foundation, which has raised half of the total funding needed for this project.
- Invested a total of $24 million over five years in projects including: infrastructure improvements at Ridgetown College's new Rural Development Centre; health and safety upgrades to the Food Quality and Safety Laboratory, and improvements to Ontario's three agricultural colleges and 14 research stations.
- Provided a $50-million transition fund to assist tobacco growers wishing to exit the industry, and encourage economic diversification and innovation in their communities.
- Announced the intention to preserve the province's valuable agricultural heritage by taking action to transfer ownership of the Country Heritage Park, in Milton, to Country Heritage Experiences Inc. A total of $750,000 will go towards support of the park and a further $143,000 will be provided to help maintain and preserve the collections if the transfer is completed.
- Renewed an agreement with 4-H Ontario by providing $2.1 million over three years to enable the organization to continue its important work in developing skills in rural youth.
- Helped more than 4,000 young people find summer jobs in rural Ontario to enhance their skills and gain valuable experience.
- Helped protect agricultural workers by extending Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) coverage to farming operations. The regulation is to take effect June 2006.
- Appointed an Agricultural Advisory Team to ensure that Ontario's growth management strategy addresses the concerns of agricultural stakeholders. The team included former federal agricultural minister Lyle Vanclief and former chair of the Christian Farmers' Federation of Ontario Bob Bedggood.
- Simplified the Minimum Distance Separation (MDS) formulas, which are used to determine the recommended distance between livestock facilities and other land uses. This will ensure that livestock uses and non-farm development are treated consistently. This initiative was recommended by the Agricultural Advisory Team.
- Commissioned Justice Haines to conduct an independent review of Ontario's meat inspection system. His report indicated Ontario has a good system in place and now, the province is making it even better. One of the results was the introduction of stronger standards for meat safety in Ontario. The new regulation, among other things, requires: licensing and inspection of freestanding meat processors; strengthened process controls at meat processing facilities; and training for food handlers.
- Hired more full-time meat inspectors. After an extensive competitive hiring process, the ministry has 61 more full-time and 61 part-time meat inspectors, in addition to 10 full-time inspectors already on board, for a total of 132 meat inspectors working as ministry employees.
- Introduced the HACCP Advantage system for small- and medium-sized food processing plants. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is a food safety system that focuses on identifying and preventing problems from occurring during food processing. The HACCP Advantage is a feasible, practical system that maintains high food safety standards.
- Signed a federal-Ontario emergency response plan against foreign animal disease that better safeguards the health of the province's livestock and citizens.
- Implemented the Meat Plant Assistance Program, a $25.35-million program to be delivered over four years. The program will assist the meat industry in education, training, making technical and business decisions and making the facility and operational upgrades required to conform to the new meat regulation. Plant operators can obtain up to $25,000 in financial assistance under this program.
- Created the Office of the Chief Veterinarian for Ontario. This office responds to a key recommendation in the Haines Report, protects public health and encourages greater competitiveness in the agri-food sector.
Research and innovation
- Invested $4.6 million in upgrading or replacing aging infrastructure at 18 agricultural facilities across the province to ensure the agri-food sector retains its competitive edge.
- Announced the transfer of ownership of three colleges and 14 research stations to the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario to promote new investment in Ontario's agri-food research facilities.
- Launched, in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Agricultural Management Institute (AMI), a $5-million business management and skills initiative. AMI will provide Ontario farm families, managers and farm advisors with improved access to the tools they need to help them achieve higher levels of business and economic success.
- Provided, with the government of Canada, more than $5 million in innovation projects that will strengthen links between producers and consumers, identify commercialization prospects resulting from advancements in life sciences and bioproducts, and capture opportunities related to new trends in healthy living. The initiatives are cost-shared under the $15.2-million Science and Innovation envelope of the Canada-Ontario Agricultural Policy Framework.
- Created the new Institute for Agri-Food Policy Innovation to develop innovative recommendations with long-term policy benefits to improve the quality of life of all Ontarians.
- Investing $520 million over 12 years to boost ethanol production in Ontario. This is part of the government commitment to require an average of five per cent ethanol in all gasoline sold in Ontario by January 1, 2007. This would be equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road or reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 800,000 tonnes.
- In conjunction with the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement, co-ordinated and hosted three workshops on efficient energy management for 75 plant managers and operators in London, Burlington and Trenton.
- Implemented, with the federal government and the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, two initiatives (Greencover Canada and Water Supply Expansion) worth $20 million to help farm and agribusiness operators care for the health of the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Introduced nutrient management improvements to ensure that requirements to protect the environment do not place an unbearable burden on farmers, nor compromise our commitment to safe, clean drinking water:
- Established a Nutrient Management Standards Science Committee
- Committed to funding research through the nutrient management joint research program
- Invested an additional $3.7 million under the Nutrient Management Financial Assistance Program to help farmers make environmental improvements on their operations and meet the requirements of the Nutrient Management Act. This brings the total to $23.7 million allocated under the program.
- Partnered on a project to reduce greenhouse gases and generate green power. A provincial investment of more than $1.6 million will go towards the creation of an integrated anaerobic digestion facility that will convert biogas from manure into heat and electricity. The Lynn Cattle Company Inc. will produce substantial amounts of electricity - enough to power its own operation as well as to sell surplus electricity on the market.
- Organized a WaterWise workshop for 58 food and beverage companies to show them how to develop sound wastewater management strategies to reduce costs.